Shep Esper was a weapon for The Blue Tornado- @pths_football @ShepEsper @840WHAS @KyHighFootball @minguabeefjerky @1776Bank

Esper was 98 for 98 this past season for the Blue Tornado

’24 PK/Punter proven among KY’s very best

You hear us talk about “three (3)-phase contributors” on a football field. The three (3) phases of football are the offense, defense, and the special teams. To win a championship in the KHSAA, a team has to be solid in all three phases. Shep Esper was among Kentucky’s very finest, in his class, this past season as both a place-kicker, where he was automatic on PATs, and punting. We believe Esper is likely to place-kick in college. He led the nation in made PATs, that is really impressive.

HB Lyon, Scouting Director, KPGFootball

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There are three phases to any football game. Offense, defense, and special teams are equally important to the “bottom line,” which is winning.

Championship teams perform at the top level of the game in all three phases. You won’t see a champion struggle in any of the three phases of the game, if you catch our drift.

Fans discount special teams, so do parents. Do you know who never discounted the third phase? Championship caliber coaches, that’s who!

General Robert R. Neyland, for whom the stadium at Tennessee is named, used to say, “Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.”

This was one of his seven Game Maxims. The seven game maxims were Neyland’s keys to victory.

Every Tennessee team, since Neyland’s days, have recited Neyland’s maxims prior to kickoff. In 2001, former Tennessee players led UT fans in reciting these maxims before each home game, with the maxims displayed on the Jumbotron.

Bobby Dodd…[believed] special teams were of equal importance to the other two-thirds of the game…

Bobby Dodd on Football, Prentice-Hall Publishers, 1954

Neyland was far from alone. Bobby Dodd, equal in status to Neyland (or anyone else in the profession for that matter), believed special teams were of equal importance to the other two-thirds of the game (offense, defense).

Dodd reasoned that kicking game mistakes could prove costly to an otherwise solid team and that kicking-game excellence could elevate a team’s performance, no matter how good or bad the team happened to be. His protégé, Frank Broyles, Arkansas’s greatest football coach of all time, placed an emphasis on the kicking game.

One of the Razorback’s greatest plays in program history was on special teams. In 1964, Ken Hatfield (who would go on to become a head football coach at Arkansas himself) returned a punt 81-yards for a TD against the number one ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin.

The return featured a crushing block by wingback Jim Lindsey and led to a 14-13 Razorback upset. That victory was the lynchpin of an undefeated season and the program’s lone national championship.

Esper was a perfect 98 for 98 in ’23 in PATs

KHSAA Statistical Website

The point has been aptly made, the kicking game has always been considered crucial by the leading architects of the game. It was both crucial and “money” for the Blue Tornado in its 13-1, ’23 campaign.

Esper was a perfect 98 for 98 in ’23 on PATs. That was good enough for him to make the Courier-Journal‘s All-State Football 2nd-Team. It was good enough to make the All-Purchase Team. It was sufficient for inclusion on the All-WKC squad. It was good enough to lead the nation.

Esper has a bright future ahead of him kicking the football next level. Esper’s version of kicking is a product worthy of protection.

Like Neyland would always say, “Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.” Yessir General; we both hear you and are paying close attention in Paducah, KY, sir!

This is Friday Night Fletch, reporting for KPGFootball, reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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About Fletcher Long 1534 Articles
Two-time winner of Kentucky Press Association awards for excellence in writing and reporting news stories while Managing Editor of the Jackson (KY) Times-Voice

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